Over the cliff-edge

“Look and learn from across the Irish Sea.” – George Osborne, February 2006.

I wasn’t planning to add to the deluge of comment on the Comprehensive Spending Review, but I thought it worth linking to Johann Hari’s superb assault on the ideologically-driven cruelty and irrationality of Cameron’s and Osborne’s plans for this country.

The whole article deserves to be read, but here is a summary of some of the key ways in which “beneath the statistics, there was a swathe of human tragedies that will now unnecessarily unfold across Britain”:

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers – “nobody’s idea of a Trotskyite cell” – predicts that a million people will now lose their jobs as a direct result of the cuts.
  • The poorest 16-year olds lose the £30 a week intended to help them afford to stay in school.
  • Care services for the elderly cut by 30 per cent.
  • Every family living on benefits set to lose an average of £1,000 a year.
  • One of the most jaw-dropping stats in Haris’ article: “There will be on average one new home built per week in the whole of London and the south-east.” (This when 4.5m people are on housing waiting lists, and the average age of a first-time buyer is 37 – and their deposit, as a colleague told me last week, needs to be £70,000.)
  • Housing benefit changes will drive 83,000 Londoners from their homes, with 1.3 million ending up in more debt. (That’s just Londoners, never mind elsewhere in the country.)

Meanwhile Vodafone is let off £6bn in tax, the bankers who caused the crash help themselves to another £7bn in bonuses (the same as the amount of cuts in welfare announced yesterday) – and the whole country is forced to follow the Tories as they drive “a disproven ideology over a cliff”, quite possibly taking the economy with it.

In all this, we shouldn’t just focus our ire on Osborne or Clegg (who tend to get the most invective directed towards them from opposition supporters). Opinion polls are already highlighting the risk that Cameron is being seen as a “presidential” figure, above the political fray and insulated from the effects of unpopular decisions taken by those below him. But these are Cameron’s plans as much as Osborne’s, and we shouldn’t forget how he lied about them before the election:

On the eve of the general election, Cameron told us: “There’ll be no cuts to frontline services,” “we’re not talking about swingeing cuts,” and “all cuts will be fair”.

Well, now we know.


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